Friday, January 30, 2009

DVDebuts: new work from Burger, Ritchie and Hong

Do not miss under any circumstances Neil Burger's THE LUCKY ONES. Within a day or two I'll have more to say about this unusual film on Guru: GreenCine's Movie Review blog. Just out on DVD this week, it both is and isn't the "Iraq" movie of the year. And the more I think about it, the better it gets.

TrustMovies finds it difficult not to get immediately wrapped up in any Guy Ritchie movie (yes, he even quite liked Revolver) and ROCKNROLLA is no exception. Nasty, fast and frisky, it introduces us to a raft of characters, all criminal, from the the seedy to the posh. And because these characters are played by the likes of Gerard Butler (below, right, with Mark Strong), Thandie Newton and Tom Wilkinson (who is as different here as you will have seen him), the movie's a very easy watch. The usual Ritchie style is present: slick, quick editing; speedy storytelling that forces us to keep up; and the conflating of stories and characters into a heady mix. Oh, yes -- and violence that is often as amusing as it is alarming.

This time there's another interesting element afoot: Homosexuality is seeping into the contours of the Ritchie gangster oeuvre, and in a manner both funny and inclusive. Does this presage a change in British attitude? Together with last year's surprising documentary A Very British Gangster, this film indicates that Brits may be coming to understand that the "gay" thing is more a part of their society than earlier suspected. Male sexuality, in fact, may be capable of a greater range of enjoyment than was heretofore imagined. Ooooooh, scary! But as shown here, maybe kinda fun -- and hot.

If you're a fan of the films of Sang-soo Hong, you'll have already seen or queued up for WOMAN ON THE BEACH. If not, the movie's a good place to begin. This South Korean director does small but rather lengthy minuets in which his characters dance around everything, including each other, while offering up some witty, thoughtful conversation. Comparisons to Rohmer are not inapt, though France and Korea vary widely as to culture and history. I found Hong's newer film much more interesting and enjoyable than his earlier Woman Is the Future of Man, perhaps because its character are in the film business, which adds a layer of self-reverential irony and humor to the mix. In any case, this slight story of a business trip to a off-season resort by a film director, his underling and the latter's composer girlfriend makes for two-hours-plus of subtle excavation into behavior, conversation and character.

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